ROCKVILLE – The president and secretary of the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association both resigned Wednesday as part of a temporary resolution to a legal battle with executive board members that became public on the eve of the group hosting the most prestigious youth soccer tournament in the country.
Raymond I. Greenberg and Claire Filemyr were also ordered “not to act in any capacity” on behalf of MSYSA, according to a 10-day temporary restraining order, to which their resignation letters were attached.
“The organization is about to put on a large tournament and no one is in charge,” said Judge Robert A. Greenberg (no relation to the defendant) in granting the TRO in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships will be held next week at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, with nearly 100 boys’ and girls’ teams from across the country participating.
“It’s important to the organization and the economy of Maryland,” Jacob S. Frenkel, a lawyer for the executive board members, said following the hearing. “This is an opportunity for Maryland to showcase its facilities.”
Greenberg’s lawyer, Mark J. Palumbo of Davis, Upton, Palumbo & Dougherty LLC in Prince Frederick, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. Filemyr was not present at the hearing and does not have a lawyer listed in court records.
MSYSA, a Glen Burnie-based nonprofit, promotes youth soccer and oversees 131 member clubs from across the state, allowing them to network and receive coaching education and training, according to their complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief filed last week.
Greenberg was elected last year to his second consecutive term in office, according to the complaint.
The nine members of the executive board who brought the court action said Greenberg and Filemyr are attempting to “usurp control of the organization” through “cheating, deception and manipulation.”
The plaintiffs accuse Greenberg and Filemyr of holding a secret meeting on June 21 to approve amendments to the MSYSA bylaws which, among other things, would eliminate the three-consecutive-term limit placed on presidents.
Only the executive board can change the bylaws, and the board had already voted in May to oppose the amendments, the complaint says.
The secret meeting, called “the Parking Lot Cabal” in the lawsuit, allegedly was attended by representatives of just four clubs who were specifically invited to it by Greenberg and Filemyr. The representatives voted to approve the amendments.
Greenberg announced the results of the meeting to all member clubs June 23, the complaint states. The next day, 10 members of the executive board signed on to a letter suspending Greenberg and Filemyr for “gross misconduct,” the complaint states.
“Defendants Greenberg and Filemyr treat the Executive Board — the lawful governing body of MSYSA — as nothing but an advisory body and nuisance that potentate Defendant Greenberg can disregard at his whim,” the complaint states.
Complicating matters, the parking-lot meeting was held in the same location and on the same day, June 21, originally meant for the association’s annual general meeting, the complaint states. But on June 20, the executive board notified all clubs that the general meeting was postponed because of “current circumstances” within the association, the complaint says.
The power struggle and lack of clarity about the annual general meeting led to many outraged member clubs, according to excerpts of emails and letters included in the complaint.
“Can you please advise what is going on within MSYSA?” asked the president of Maryland United FC. “Who is in charge and how is business being conducted?”
“Everyone is talking about the demise of the MSYSA,” said an assistant coach with Soccer Association of Columbia. “Get it together people. You are not searching for disease cures or protect[ing] the country.”
But Frenkel, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said while it would be easy to view the case as one of “personalities and friction,” it is really about enforcing Maryland corporate law and protecting voting rights of a corporation’s members.
“If anything, this should send a resounding message to the affiliates that the majority of the executive board wants to ensure that every member that wants to be heard will be heard,” said Frenkel, a partner with Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker P.A. in Potomac. “The gutsy decision of these directors to stand behind fairness and process is praiseworthy and commendable.”
Kathie Diapoulis, executive director of the Washington Area Girls Soccer League, said the MSYSA had been “very quiet” in the last few months but now she understands it was because of the in-fighting.
“It’s very sad,” she said. “We are here to provide a good experience to youth players of all ages.”
Diapoulis, who served 17 years as president of WAGS, said she did not always agree with Greenberg but praised his handling of rules and regulations. Greenberg spent 21 years with the National Capital Soccer League, including eight as president, prior to leading the MSYSA.
“He gave a lot of years and time to youth soccer and this is what he’s going to be remembered for,” she said.
Diapoulis said she is looking forward to the national championships next week, calling it a “huge boon” for the area. She has been checking in on her own with representatives from U.S. Youth Soccer to see if there is anything local clubs can do to help out.
“I wanted to make sure we didn’t look like fools,” she said.
The case is Majority Directors of the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association Inc. v. Raymond I. Greenberg, et al., 392720V.